Home » Big Publishing, Non-US, PG's Thoughts (such as they are) » The UK’s 2018 ‘Building Inclusivity’ Conference: A Safe Place for Discussion

The UK’s 2018 ‘Building Inclusivity’ Conference: A Safe Place for Discussion

30 November 2018

From Publishing Perspectives:

There were several key messages highlighted in the UK’s third conference on Building Inclusivity in Publishing, presented by the London Book Fair and the Publishers Association on London’s South Bank on Tuesday (November 27).

. . . .

  • Inclusion should be a given, not an exception
  • Unpaid internships should disappear completely
  • Publishers should establish “safe places” in which conversations concerning issues like identity can take place
  • Children’s publishers need to recognize how important it is for black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) children to see themselves in books

Self-defined “queer working-class woman” Kerry Hudson—whose memoir Lowborn Growing Up, Getting Away, and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns is to be published February 5 by Penguin Random House’s Chatto—noted that strides have been made to improve inclusion.

One example Hudson pointed to is the Good Literary Agency, specifically set up with the purpose of reaching marginalized voices, for example—but she also pointed out that a recent report funded by the the Arts and Humanities Research Council and titled Panic! 2018 Social Cass, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries (PDF), suggested that only 12.6 percent of employees in publishing are of working-class origin.

“Marginalized writers aren’t looking for a scheme or a month of open submissions when for the rest of the year they feel as isolated and overlooked as ever,” Hudson said.

“We want an industry where inclusivity is the norm and not the shiniest new project. The aim must be not for superficial changes but actually changing the bones, the very structure of what this industry is. That means moving away from pilots, meetings, and mission statements and looking at how to roll-out, scale up, and truly integrate these principles.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG suggests that traditional publishing is built upon a foundation that is exactly the opposite of inclusive. Publishing drones sift through the never-diminishing slush pile looking for the rarest of manuscripts. They automatically exclude 99%+ of the voices who want to be heard in the broader society.

One might argue that the principal value of traditional publishers for most readers is to create an exclusive collection of books that will appeal to those readers. If a publisher doesn’t exclude manuscripts its readers will, for whatever reason, not enjoy, the costs of publication, overhead, etc., will quickly exceed the publisher’s income and the publisher will disappear.

Self-described “curators of culture” can’t open the gates to just anyone without failing in their curational role, the only value they provide in a world in which self-publishing is becoming more and more widely accepted.

One might also ask if traditional publishers are providing a useful service to marginalized authors by inviting those authors into a business structure in which, “Don’t quit your day job,” is the most common piece of honest advice publishers give to debut authors.

Isn’t Kindle Direct Publishing “actually changing the bones, the very structure of what this industry is” to a far, far greater extent than conferences held on London’s South Bank?

Won’t more marginalized authors succeed in sharing their unique viewpoints with the world by self-publishing? Won’t most marginalized authors find a life as a professional writer easier to attain by selling their work in ebook form on Amazon?

 

Big Publishing, Non-US, PG's Thoughts (such as they are)

10 Comments to “The UK’s 2018 ‘Building Inclusivity’ Conference: A Safe Place for Discussion”

  1. Won’t more marginalized authors succeed in sharing their unique viewpoints with the world by self-publishing? Won’t most marginalized authors find a life as a professional writer easier to attain by selling their work in ebook form on Amazon?

    That’s logic; logic isn’t allowed.

    • ‘Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’

    • Intersectional researchers have recently instructed us that logic is just another privileged and instrumentalized tool of the patriarchy.

  2. I would observe that in this new age of independent publishing there are still no guarantees of success.

  3. – “One might also ask if traditional publishers are providing a useful service to marginalized authors … ”

    One might answer that no, they provide a service to the paying readers and – to be brutal – authors are a means to that end. Rather the way that the big social media companies’ “services” to the public are from their point of view a means to gather saleable data. Holding conferences based on the service-to-authors premise may be revealing a lack of understanding of their own business priorities.

    That said, this particular reader finds that most traditional publishers publish almost nothing of interest, just shelf-miles of tediously PC verbiage where e.g. the surprise secret bad guy is predictable from page one – it’s always the right-wing politician or the rich businessman or some such.

    (Maybe that had something to do with the surprising success of 50 Shades? Not so much the sex, as that the hero was a wealthy businessman?)

    In the end, providing a wide selection of stories wherein anyone can find a hero to identify with has got to be good for business. But thinking that their “BAME” kids are the only ones who can’t is plainly incorrect.

  4. I bet some white promoter made a good buck off the conference.

  5. And people think our dystopian future is going to be brought about by religious extremism. Sure it is. Our fascist, dystopian future is going to come from the left.

  6. This is all such rubbish. The ultimate litmus test is whether readers buy the books. Self-publishing has made this point mostly moot. It is relevant only to traditional publishers in choosing what to publish. It assumes that traditional publishers are making these decisions based on cultural merit instead of simply what is likely to sell, which is simply not the case in 99.9% of cases. They are businesses, not charities or guardians of culture. They can hold as many conferences as they like and virtue signal to their hearts content. If they actually do go beyond mere talk and do something then the test will be to what extent there is a real demand for such diversity. If it in fact turns out that there is then one must ponder what a terrible job they have been doing in excluding such works.

    Personally I expect they have been doing a generally awful job, and a lack of more diverse voices has been only one aspect of this. I suspect that if they now begin to flood the market for their books with selections based on race or gender or culture to fit the politically correct narrative they are being herded towards, this will be a further failure. So far as children’s books are concerned, the fact is that many parents do not share the views of those setting the agenda, and to the extent that these parents control their children’s reading many books pushing a politically correct agenda will earn critical praise but few sales. Sort of like much award winning literary fiction. As for children and young adults choosing their own reading, what is important is great books and great stories told well. I truly doubt, for instance, that white children in a predominantly white society are going to pick books which hector them on their “white privilege”, particularly those from families who are really not very well off economically. Boys may well well enjoy books with strong female heroines, for instance, but less so when masculinity is demonised and the agenda is to make them feel ashamed to be men. Schools may pick these books but many children will read them grudgingly and not take them particularly seriously, much as they do with many books now.

    Book selections have not been perfect or close to it, ever. Many such selections have always largely functioned as propaganda, particularly with children, and many good books excluded for the wrong reasons. I see this type of effort by traditional publishers as simple virtue-signalling. If they do implement it in a big way I can see it being even more of a failure than their regrettable past practices.

    In the meantime, it is irrelevant to self-publishing. The books will be there if the demand is. What I expect to see eventually, if it has not already happened, is a push to fund the discovery of books which suit particular political and social agenda.

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